The Times’s editors should publish their advertising blacklist for our benefit

The Times thinks newspapers should refuse advertising from the people the PN loves to hate 

17 Black's Mordor, apparently...
17 Black's Mordor, apparently...

Once the Tumas Group was lauded by Maltese governments for its Portomaso hotel project and the jobs it created. Now, its owner’s possession of a Dubai firm linked to the secret Panama companies of Labour’s men has turned it toxic. 

Nobody was spared the fire and brimstone from Mark Wood’s editorialising on Sunday: even a 2016 interview inside the dark recesses of MaltaToday’s page 33 (the commercials section) with a director of Electrogas (33% owned by a business consortium owned by 17 Black owner Yorgen Fenech and magnate Joe Gasan) has cropped up in this trail of toxicity. 

This unpaid interview is part of a newspaper section in which announcements and commercial news from advertisers are featured – it was never even published online, like 99% of this commercial news. The STOM’s email cache from the Electrogas leak includes the Catherine Halpin questions that were sent beforehand to facilitate this interview, through their marketing agency. 

So for the Sunday Times, a newspaper owned by a trust accused of having usurped ownership from Mabel Strickland’s rightful heir, it is the turn of MaltaToday owner Saviour Balzan to be guilted by association.

“As a newspaper owner for the past 20 years and a journalist for over 35 years, I have spoken with Malta’s leading industrialists, prime ministers, and politicians from every side. I respect all those who choose to speak to me, for whatever reason,” he told the STOM after being asked whether he, the owner of four newspapers, knew Yorgen Fenech.

“If sections of the Maltese press think certain newspaper owners or journalists should shun those who no longer enjoy the favour of a political party, the Times should publish its blacklist for everybody’s benefit.” 

That blacklist is looking like the PN’s own partisan blacklist. 

But nobody in the press cares for the business relationships Allied Newspapers nurtures when it comes to its companies and newspaper ads. Only The Times gets to moralise about how a private company like Mediatoday should conduct its business relationships. Ironic, given that Mediatoday pays associated company Progress Press to print its newspapers. Maybe Mark Wood thinks this is proof of his independence, waging a campaign on the far-flung front of the newspaper back pages where news goes to die.

Why does the STOM want Balzan, who produces the programme Xtra for TVM, to reveal commercial information on his advertising – the upshot being that, any Tumas money is now toxic cash?

“I need not discuss my companies’ commercial business, much as I do not expect Allied Newspapers – a subsidiary of which receives hundreds of thousands in euros from my company for printing business – to disclose its own commercial business, for example its long-time purchase of newsprint and other services from the Kasco Group,” Balzan told the STOM. 

MaltaToday has written freely on Yorgen Fenech’s business, 17 Black and Panamagate, and in front-page editorials published before the 2017 election and after the 17 Black revelations, demanded the resignations of Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri (whose company Kasco  still enjoys a business relationship with Allied Group subsidiary Progress).

17 Black | Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri must go 

Like our colleagues at Allied Newspapers, we – and the author of this missive – enjoy full independence, even when the Chinese walls are tested. Probably the publicity-shy Mark Wood must say the same over the presence of Nationalist MP Mario de Marco inside the trust that owns Allied.

If Mark Wood thinks journalism is all about ‘guilt by association’ and ‘scandal’ on the most basic of social relationships, he should take up a job inside the Nationalist Party.

More in National